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Stephanie Carrico knows what it's like to be an underdog, an outsider, the one who was picked on in her youth.
The 38-year-old Trunk Space co-owner remembers not having a place as a teenager where like-minded misfits could hang, could exert their nascent creativity in an atmosphere where conventional notions of art and community took a backseat to individuality and a true do-it-yourself spirit.
Basically, a place where, as Carrico puts it, one goes to fail — and gets better because of it.
For a decade, Phoenix's experimental musicians and artists have been failing — and, yes, getting better because of it — at the Trunk Space, ground zero for the Valley's all-ages rock scene, tour stop for countless under-the-radar bands needing a place to play between Los Angeles and anywhere east of Phoenix, visual art gallery, a pioneer in Grand Avenue's revitalization, and as vital a player in Phoenix's underground culture as there is.
Carrico and co-owner Jason Nosaj (a.k.a. JRC) turned a moribund storefront on a go-nowhere stretch of Grand Ave into a countercultural hub and haven for under-21 rock fans who can't yet catch live music in the nightclub scene.
Now, 10 years on, Trunk Space is celebrating with Indie 500, a 10-day festival featuring five bands each night performing 10 songs apiece. In conjunction with Indie 500 is a group art exhibit opening Friday, April 4 (the official 10-year anniversary), and aptly titled "You're Always Welcome Here."
On the occasion of Trunk Space's milestone, we're letting some of those who've navigated the Trunk Space universe since its early days tell the story. (Interviews have been condensed or edited for clarity.)
Andrew Jemsek (Fathers Day/Freaks of Nature/countless other bands): I started going to the Trunk Space in 2004. Ryan Avery booked my band, Haunted Cologne. Ryan hit us up one day and said, "There's this place called the Trunk Space. You should really play there. We should do stuff there." So we did. To this day, JRC and Steph are very open. Their attitude is: You can do anything in this place.
Ben Gallaty (Andrew Jackson Jihad): The cool thing about Trunk Space is, first off, that they were willing to book Andrew Jackson Jihad. The first show that we played back in 2004, there were maybe a dozen people — probably less, though — and they were willing to book the show, which I thought was great because, at another venue, if there weren't like 50 people at the show, then you could count on them never booking you again because they're not making a bunch of money off of you.
Abe Gil (Treasure Mammal): Crazy experiences are part of what makes up the longevity of Trunk Space. First, the venue was cleaned up and made into a place for local and touring acts to perform. Fixed up by a couple with their own passions for expression and DIY culture. Their will has fostered the entire thing, because as they have said, they make no money in running this venue.
In fact, for Carrico, originally from Utah, and 40-year-old Nosaj, a native of Buffalo, New York, the Trunk Space fits the very definition of "labor of love," especially in the venue's early years.
Steph Carrico (co-owner): There was a night, probably in 2007, when things were overwhelming here and I thought if Trunk Space is supposed to go on, someone will pay with a dollar coin. A few minutes later, a guy paid his entire $5 cover charge with silver dollars. Then, I was, like, all right, universe, thanks for that! About a half an hour later, [local musician] Stephen Steinbrink walked up to me with a silver dollar — and I hadn't even said this out loud to anyone. He handed it to me and said, "I think I'm supposed to give this to you. I really want you to have this." I had to walk away because I started to cry. Whatever powers that be were saying, "No, you gotta keep doing this. No bailing now." I carry the silver dollar with me to this day from Stephen.
Alex Votichenko (a.k.a. Djentrification): Trunk Space could not exist unless people really loved music there. Trunk Space is proof that there's a real scene in Phoenix; people who really love music. It wouldn't be around as long if it hadn't.
Beatrice Moore (landlord/entrepreneur/ Grand Ave revivalist): JRC and Steph are certainly very dedicated to what they're doing. They have a niche with a lot of the indie bands that play there. They are one of the few spaces that encourage a younger audience, but it's not just young people; it's different ages, which is really interesting. They should be given credit for nurturing that young audience and for providing a space for them to go to hang out.
They also have a really good symbiotic relationship with the Bikini Lounge, which had a dying audience when we first bought it. It was mostly old people, and a lot of them had died off, and it was a very small group of people that were going there. It was because of the art communities from First Friday, the Art Walk, and Trunk Space that Bikini Lounge got really revived.